Hello my dear readers.

One of the really good American inventions are support groups. There are many of them:

Type "anonymous" in Google and you will find even more of them. It is really a good idea for a person who feels that he or she is weird, crazy, not like everybody else, to go to anonymous support group to find that he or she is not alone. I really need a travel addicts anonymous support group.

I did not travel for  4 months and this is too long for me. I knew, a normal person would say: "four  months without travel, so what?" Only those who are travel addicts themselves will understand me. Actually I have found like minded people at http://www.avp.travel.ru/. The Internet site of Russian hitchhikers. They hitchhiked across entire African continent  and obviously encountered a lot of troubles and real dangers.  When they described their ordeals to a group of normal people, these people exclaimed "why did you do that to yourself?" It puzzles them, why somebody would torture himself in such a way. Finally one of the listeners  found the explanation: "They are travel fanatics!!!"   Oh, travel addicts, this explained everything!  I would recommend to everybody who understands Russian to take a look at their site. Some stories are amazing, like the story of China travel "On a wild Ass' trail" by Vladimir Dinets, available in English at http://hotcity.com/~vladimir/epanda.htm. Vladimir's credo is: "Life is worth living only while you are capable of traveling" In two weeks I will start to travel again. This time mostly inside Russia. I plan to go from St. Petersburg to Onega Lake, Kizhi, then through city of Kargopol to Archangel on the White sea, then to Solovetsky Island and to the Kola peninsula. Another trip I plan to do is to the Altay mountains and Mongolia. This one is questionable because Russia closed border crossings with Mongolia due to SARS.

I plan to continue to send my travel notes to you, but I am thinking about switching to Yahoo Groups because I have about 150 readers while Yahoo allows to send E-Mails only to 100 addresses.  Yahoo groups are free of charge, but Yahoo sends so many   annoying commercials. They would better charge users, instead of bombarding them with these commercials. I probably will have to swith anyhow. I will let you know later. I put some of my old pictures on the Internet. You can take a look at them at http://photos.yahoo.com/mumzhiu
Attached are

Alex Mumzhiu
McLean Virginia USA
May 18, 2003

Map of my trips

map.jpg (56767 bytes)

List of my trips

1 1949 July Lake Seliger, Russia 14 days Camping
2 1952 July Karelia, Russia 10 days Hike
3 1953 July Caucasian Shore, Russia 30 days Civil


4 1956 Jan Karelia 10 days Ski
5 1956 July Across Ural Mountains 21 days Trek, Raft
6 1957 Jan Karelia, Russia 14 days Ski
7 1957 June Central Kola penensula, Russia 21 days Wooden raft
8 1958 Jan Western Kola penensula 21 days Ski
9 1958 July Mountaneering School, Caucasus 30 days Mountaineering


10 1959 July, Aug Kiev-Lvov-Odessa-Crimea, Russia 60 days Motorized Bike
11 1960 July Around Crimea 30 days Trek
12 1962 July Caucasus, Mountain Trek, Planned trip 20 days Mnt hike
13 1963 July Caucasus, Mountain Trek, with Shrago 20 days Mnt hike
14 1964 July Mountaneering School Altay Aktru, Russia 30 days Mountaineering
15 1965 June-July Lower Tunguska, Siberia, Geological Expedition 60 days Motorized Raft
16 1968 July Seletskoe, Zaonejie, Russia 30 days trek, bike
17 1969 July Across Caucasus to Black Sea Shore to Anapa 30 days Mnt hike
18 1970 July Karelia to White sea 30 days canoe
19 1971 July Mountaneering Camp, Besengi, Caucasus 30 days Mountaineering
20 1972 July-Aug Far East Geological Expedition Amur River-Tatar Strait. 45 days All Terrain Vehice
21 1973 July Around Azov sea, canoe with sail 30 days canoe
22 1974 July Around Azov sea, canoe with sail 30 days canoe
23 1976 June-Aug Altay Surveying Expedition, Russia 60 days horse
24 1977 June-Aug Altay Surveying Expedition, Russia 60 days horse
25 1978 June-Aug Aldan Surveying Expedition, Russia 40 days trek
26 1979 July Altay, independent expedition 10 days trek, white water


27 1981 July Michigan Upper Penensula, USA, car 8 days car
28 1982 July Detroit, USA-Nova Scotia, Canada 20 days car
29 1983 July-Aug Around USA, car 30 days car
30 1990 July Virgin Islands, BVI, camping 14 days camping
31 1991 July England, Israel 14 days civil


32 1994 July Paris,Brussels,Antverp, Amsterdam,Cologne,Luxenburg 7 days bike,public transp
33 1994 Aug Hawaii 21 days car
34 1994 Dec Thailand, Malaysia, Burma 21 days bike,public transp
35 1995 Mar Arizona, Baja Peninsula (Mexico) 14 days car
36 1995 May Alps (Switzerland, France, Italy) 7 days bike,public transp
37 1995 Sept Sweeden, Russia 7 days bike,public transp
38 1995 Now Mexico 7 days bike,public transp
39 1996 Oct Rio De Janeiro , Brazil 10 days bike,public transp
40 1997 Feb Italy 10 days bike,public transp
41 1997 May Denmark Germany 10 days bike,public transp
42 1997 Sept Spain Morocco 10 days bike,public transp


43 1998 Sept Agentina, Chile, Uruguay 10 days bike,public transp
44 1998 Nov Mexico, Cancun, Cozumel 14 days scuba
45 1999 Apr Israel,Egypt,Jordan 30 days bike,public transp
46 1999 June Russia, Estonia, Finland 30 days bike,public transp
47 1999 Sept, Oct Japan 40 days bike,public transp
48 2000 Jan, Mar Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam,Laos 60 days bike,public transp
49 2000 5.24-7.6 Russia, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungr, Check, Austria 43 days bike,public transp
50 2000 Sept-Dec Tibet, Nepal, India 103 days bike,public transp
51 2001 Apr Mexico 10 days bike,public transp
52 2001 Jun-Nov Russia, Estonia, Finland, Ukraina, Mongolia, China, HK 152 days bike,public transp
53 2002 Mar-July Tunis, Ital,Greece,Turk, Georg, Armen, Azerb,Kazak,Uzbek 132 days bike,public transp
54 2002-3 11.2-1.20 Equador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil 80 days bike,public transp

List of visited countries

Country Year Country Year Country Year
1 Argentina 1998 23 France 1994 45 Mongolia 2001
2 Armenia 2002 24 Georgia 1953 46 Morocco 1997
3 Austria 1979 25 Germany 1997 47 Nepal 2000
4 Azerbaijan 1962 26 Gibraltar 1997 48 Netherlands 1994
5 Belarus 1968 27 Greece 2002 49 Paraguay 2002
6 Belgium 1994 28 Hong Kong 2001 50 Peru 2002
7 Bolivia 2002 29 Hungary 2000 51 Romania 2000
8 Brasil 1996 30 India 2000 52 Russia 1937
9 Bulgaria 2000 31 Israel 1991 53 San Marino 1992
10 Burma 1994 32 Italy 1979 54 Slovakia 2000
11 BVI 1990 33 Japan 1999 55 Spain 1997
12 Cambodia 2000 34 Jordan 1999 56 Sweden 1995
13 Canada 1980 35 Kazakhstan 2002 57 Switzerland 1995
14 Czech Republic 2000 36 Laos 2000 58 Thailand 1994
15 Chile 1998 37 Latvia 1967 59 Tunis 2002
16 China 2001 38 Lithuania 1967 60 Turkey 2000
17 Denmark 1997 39 Luxembourg 1994 61 Ukraine 1947
18 Ecuador 2002 40 Macao 2001 62 Uruguay 1998
19 Egypt 1999 41 Malaysia 1994 63 USA 1979
20 England 1991 42 Mexico 1983 64 Uzbekistan 2002
21 Estonia 1967 43 Moldova 1975 65 Vatican 1979
22 Finland 1999 44 Monaco 1979 66 Vietnam 2000

Hello my dear subscribers,

I received several interesting responses to my previous TN. A lady from Germany who is a travel addict herself wrote that unlike other anonymous groups we (travel addicts) won't focus on how to get rid of our  addiction. We will focus on how to feed it.   Gentleman from England wrote that while I (Alex Mumzhiu) developed a travel addiction, he developed an addiction to my Travel Notes and after 4 months of their absence he feels withdrawal  symptoms. OK, soon you will get plenty of them.

Tomorrow I am leaving to my next trip It is not only my travel addiction, that drives me. I  have to travel for health reasons also.  Life in America is pretty unhealthy.  People in the not so  prosperous   countries walk for groceries, walk to
work, run after overcrowded buses and fight with others to get inside. This provides them with much needed amount of daily exercises, the natural way.  Americans almost do not walk.  They go everywhere by car. Every task which requires even a small muscular effort is mechanized or automated. Even  two  story buildings have an elevator. This, along with abandons of food  produce an un-intentional result. Americans became fatter and fatter. Dedicated people with strong will, would wake up earlier and go for a jog, go to gym and eat, not tasty, but healthy vegetables. This way they stay in shape. Ordinary folks don't do that and get fat.  A Stunning 70% of Americans are overweight.

This is an unexpected result of a sincere efforts to make people's live better and easier. I did not get overweight yet, but I definitely got out of shape during four months of sitting in front of the computer and traveling between the computer and the fridge.

As I wrote before I plan two trips. One trip to the South, to the Altay region of Russia and Mongolia. The other  trip  to adjacent parts of Russia, Norway and Finland at the North. Map of this second trip is attached. It will start from Petrozavodsk on Onega lake and continue through Zaonejie (land behind Onega lake) to city of Archangel'sk. I worked in Zaonejie in my summer vacation in 1968, I collected resin from pine tries (jivitsa). I earn 130 rubles for one month, which was rather modest pay for this tough work. But I spent a month in the magnificent forest and lived with my mother in a half abandoned but still pretty picturesque Karelian village. My wife came on a weekend from Leningrad and made a painting of the wooden church standing right in front of house where I lived. Picture is attached.  I really want to see what happened with these places in 35 years. From Archangel'sk, I will take a ferry to Solovetsky Islands, another remarkable place with deep historical roots. From Solovetsky Islands I will go to Murmansk and across the Noway border to Northern part of Norway, to see fjords. And then down through Finland to Helsinki.

It will be mostly a camping trip. I already packed my backpack. It contains everything for camping: tent, sleeping mat, sleeping bag and a small pot. Also it contains an outfit for visiting opera and ballet in St Petersburg and it weight 20 lb (9 kg)!!! Well, outfit for visiting theaters is just one fancy shirt. In Russia it is OK to go to theater in jeans and sneakers. It is especially useful for me, because I ride bike to theaters, fold it and give it in a bag to cloakroom, and pay extra 5 rubles if the cloak lady is displeased. After the theater I unfold it and ride away.

Alex Mumzhiu

Northern trip.jpg (94490 bytes)

Map of my trip

Seltskoe 1.jpg (31585 bytes)

Wooden church from Zaonejie

June 6 2003
Washington USA



I helped to arrange an experience of cultural events for a group of four relatively   young  people (20-30 range)  from America. Two of them happened to be my children. Every foreigner coming to Russia is supposed to see a ballet. Half a dozen   theaters in SPB (St. Petersburg)  show the ballet Swan Lake.  Our schedule  was tight and we did not have much choice, so  we went to see the Swan Lake at Tovstonogov Great Dramatic Theater.  The music was great, decorations and costumes too, but ballet performance... I realized that ballets which I saw before, mostly in Russia, were excellent.  This ballet performed by a  group called SouzBaletExport or something like this, was targeted for  foreigners. I do not know about Europeans, but in America ballet and caviar are exotic and expensive Russian products with which normal people are not very familiar. So most people attending performance were very happy. I was happy too because it helped me to understand the difference between good and bad ballet performances.  You have to experience bad things in order to appreciate  the good ones.


We went to see the opera La Traviata.  It was not specially made for export and it was good. Opera as well as ballet are not American favorite arts, so I have to give some   explanations to my group. Most difficult was to explain what "courtesan" means. The main character of opera La Traviata, Violetta Valery,  is  a courtesan. It was difficult  to explain to people growing up in puritanic American society, the values of French High Court. In French High Court adultery was the  way   of life. In America, the president was almost impeached   for adultery. I told them that a courtesan is something between a call girl and escort service lady.   I love La Traviata  and  remember  most of the melodies by heart. I can even sing most of the songs, because in Russia the operas are performed in translation to Russian language, so it is easy to remember the words. I am not such an opera lover, every person of my generation can do the same.  And here is the explanation of this phenomenon:  There used to be a so called "radio" in every room of every house in Russia.  Actually it was not a real radio, it was  a loudspeaker   connected by wires to central  facility, which  broadcast news, information and entertainment to the entire country. It was a great tool for communist propaganda and brain washing, almost on an Orwelian scale.  However propaganda   cannot  go on for  24  hour per day. Some music and songs  were broadcasted in between. And the opera was broadcasted very often.  Communists   did not like rock and jazz which, they believed  may have bad bourgeois influence on Soviet people. But opera was OK.


In Russia  there are two types of tickets: for Russians and for foreigners.   Difference in price is up to 20 times. For example, Russian ticket to Hermitage is $0.50, foreigner's ticket is  $11. I think it is fair and reflects the difference in the income. If they would make the price the same, foreigners will go almost for free and   Russians will not be able to see their cultural treasures at all. People in my group were not rich and  prices quoted as above, especially if they were compounded for several events,  were too high for them. So we tried to cheat  the controllers.  Using advice from our Russian friends we developed a technique which work almost 100%  of the time.

  1. First, you should have a gloomy facial expression , no smiles.
  2. Second,  white socks and white undershirts should be not visible. You can uniquely identify Americans anywhere in the  world by white socks. Also it doesn't matter how hot it is, an  American  man will wear two shirts, normal shirt and undershirt.  
  3. We arrange our group in such a way that the most Russian looking person  goes first, and I am waving tickets in hand at the end of the group.  And most American looking persons were hidden inside the group.

It works  fine. Only one time, when we try to enter Saint Isaac's Cathedral most American looking guy was caught.  He had to buy a ticket for foreigners and his Russian ticket may be  returned to the cashier.  However cashier refuse to take the ticket. I offered the ticket to people standing in line. Obviously nobody wanted to buy it because the ticket may be counterfeited or expired. Than I offered the ticket to people standing in line for free. Nobody wanted to take it. I went along the line and shouted: "Who wants a free ticket, who wants a free ticket"  Nobody wanted it.  Eventually one lady, who looked rather like Japanese, not Russian, took it.   It was a pretty interesting experiment. Russians are so incredibly suspicious. They have the reason for this, they  were cheated so many times in the past. It also indicates how difficult it is to create a new business in Russia. All these Intels, Microsofts and Fords were started on borrowed money.


Most enjoyable thing for me in SPB is night bike rides. It is quiet, no traffic,   and the entire city is  illuminated by the magic light of white nights. I wanted to show it to my companions.  But it was not easy. There is no bike rent in SPB. To find  four bikes was  not an easy task.  In America you can find a few rusting bikes on every backyard. They were bought for children and as soon as bikes became inoperable, mostly because of flat tire, they are left to rust. After children are grown
up, parents sell bikes on garage sale for a few bucks. If you inflate the tires and spray the chain with WD-40  the bikes are OK again. I was able to find only three bikes so we rode in turn.  It was great. However in order to ride bikes in SPB
you have to understand the mentality of local drivers. A car is still a luxury here, which most people cannot afford.  So, every driver is a superman and he feel it is insulting for him to break for these jerks who are still walking.  I was almost hit by a car here. I tried to cross the road in front of a car. I know that he would not break just for me alone, but I thought it would be reasonable for the driver to slow down for me in the situation where a  few yards later he  has to slow down  and stop for the red light.  But my logic was wrong. He almost hit me and then braked hard for the red light.  Riding a bike during the day is safe because cars are stopped in traffic jams and I even had the sadistic pleasure of doing slalom on bike around these super-macho a-holes stopped forever in the endless traffic jam.


In spite of some efforts in last years, Russia is still much less tourist friendly (for independent travelers)than such countries as Laos, Vietnam or Thailand.  It started with idiotic rule of foreigner's registration. Except for Nigeria and former Soviet Republics of Central Asia nobody as far as I know require such registration. The process of registration used to require up to two days. You have to stay in line to OVIR. Than stay in line in bank, fill out 6 identical forms and pay amount in rubles equivalent to $ 0.05. Now it is much faster.  There is only one laundromat  in SPB. I already told  you about bike rentals.  Hovewer the main problem of Western tourists is their wrong mind set. Russians plan everything in advance. But Westerners expect   that everything will be there when they need it. A Westerner starts to  look for a restroom only when he really needs it. But line in women's restroom in Petergoff was one hour long... Well after all this criticism  I should say that the center of the city was perfectly restored for 300 year celebration. I love Sankt Petersburg in any condition but I should admit that when restored it looks better

Alex Mumzhiu
Sankt Petersburg, Russia
June 19, 2003 11:30pm

Konstantinovsky Palace

I went to a concert of a popular Russian bard Timur Shaov. Tickets price was $7, pretty high for Russia,  and all tickets were sold out. Please read later about Russian passion for bards.  I asked incoming people for an extra ticket and eventually bought one. I took my seat and heard a  familiar voice behind me. It was my old friend Ed B. who lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico; an incredible coincidence. He, and his Russian friends invited me to join them the next day to visit the State Congress Palace in Strelna which just recently was visited by 20 presidents including George Bush. It can be visited only by organized groups, 15 persons per hour. The palace, also known as Konstaninovsky palace was restored in two years for a price of $250 million. Peter the Great planned to build the Russian equivalent of the French Versailles here, but later switched to Peterhoff because the landscape in Strelna is bland and featureless. The landscape has not changed from Peter's time and it is still un-inspiring.  Anyhow president Putin decided to re-build a State Palace here. The tour guide many times showed us projects which were started by Peter the Great and finished by Putin. I guess the  major motivation for for Putin to build a state palace here was exactly this. He like to be mentioned as a person who finished Peter's projects.

Pushkin's mountains

I bought a two days tour to visit Pushkinskie gori (Pushkin's mountains) in the coming weekend for $40, including hotel, transportation and food. As usual I took a look at Lonely Planet book which is the best source of information on where to stay and where to eat, how to get there and so on.  LP usually provides a historical and cultural background, written in a way that is digestible to its readers. Here is a quotation from the LP book, "Russia, Ukraine and Belarus" second edition page 395:

"For visitors to Russia, the veneration and attention enjoyed by the bards is hard to understand, and all the fuss the country  makes over its wordsmiths sometimes borders on the absurd"

"One doesn't have to be in Russia very long to realize that poets are to this country what baseball stars and presidents to the USA" "On the whole, the poets- from Pushkin and Lermontov to Pasternak and Brodsky-have been heavy drinkers, gamblers, womanizers and troublemakers. Nevertheless, school children bring flowers to their graves and can recite their poems before they know how to read"

They also noticed that Pushkin was a womanizer and foot fetishist.

Lecturing service

I am here already for 20 days and some things started getting on my nerves. All sales people are on a lecturing mission here. When you ask sales ladies how much something costs, she would not tell you just the price of the product. She will tell you "Young man don't you see the price on all products on display in front of you?"

If you ask in a cafe/restaurant/bar, "do you have tea?" They will not tell you Yes or No. They will tell you "Young man don't you understand that this is cafe/restaurant/bar and we supposed/not supposed to have tea

Some statistics

I read in English language newspaper "St. Petersburg News" that the drop in amount of tourists visiting St Petersburg on 300 years anniversary was compatible only with drop after Sept 11 2001. Many hotels were 50% empty.  Reason for this are different bureaucratic bottlenecks, Such as this: Petersburg airport supposed to be closed for one day to welcome presidents, and ordinary visitors have to postpone their flight. This was not a problem, real problem  was that many visitors had their visa expired and it has to be extended. Which is not a simple process. All these bureaucratic hurdles which make sense in the past, when every visitor was considered as potential spy, looks like absurd theater now.

Alex Mumzhiu
St Petersburg Russia
June 26 7pm

Pskov, Pushkin Hills

As I told you I bought a bus tour to Pskov, Izborsk, Pecheri and Puskin Hills, about a 5 hour drive from SPB.  I was told to come at 7:00 am sharp.  The bus left at 8:00am. The toilet in the bus did not work. The toilet on the street did not have paper.   Lonely Planet book came to help... as always. Before tour guide started her presentation, she recommended to tourists not to drink (water) because the difficulty with toilet facilities. I remember those Western tourists who always carry a bottle of water with them; not in Russia. The tour itself was not as bad  as it could be, keeping in mind that there were tour groups in front of us and behind, so you could listen to your tour guide or the next one. What surprised me was Pushkin's posmertnaia maska (a wax mask of Pushkin's face, made after his death). I obviously saw his mask before I moved to America. However, only after I spent 20 years in America and became familiar with different types of black (Negro) faces, did I recognize some familiar  Negro features in Pushkin's face. You can easily meet such face in Washington DC. Pushkin predecessor Gannibal was black.

I got a real feelling for these majestic places  when I came in the evening, alone, on my bike. I rode  from the tourbaza (tourist hotel)  to Michailovskoe, than to Trigorskoe than  back to the tourbaza. Even though, I was the only person in   Michailovskoe,  the guard told me do not ride my bike. So I  rode it in the  hills and fields surrounding Pushkin mansion, where  Pushkin  rode his favorite argamak horse. Nothing  interferes with inspiration  coming to me from these places, which are so  magical to everybody who loves Pushkin. I am sure if there were bikes available in Pushkin's time, he would prefer to bike. Horses are living creatures and require some  attention. Bikes don't need hay, don't fart and don't say "neigh" (igo-go). Three days later I rode my bike near Marsovo Pole (Mars square) in Saint Petersburg and challenged the girls who offered horses for rent there, to a race.  I wrote about these girls two years ago, do you remember?  One girl took the challenge and we made a race along the edge of a field. I rode my bike on asphalt, she rode the  horse on a dirt road. A horse cannot run fast on   asphalt.  We finished simultaneously.

My friend gave  me a book written by  Sergei Davlatov "Zapovednik" (Reservation),  written about the Pushkin memorial complex. Davlatov worked there   as a tour guide. So I tried to visit some places which Davlatov mentioned, mostly low key restaurants where he got drunk. Amazingly  everybody  here knows Davlatov's  name and some remember him.   My group left Sunday afternoon. I stayed and rode my bike  in the evening of that day and planned to ride it the next morning also. But it was pouring rain and I decided to go back to St. Petersburg. There were not many people in the streets. I met two Gypsy girls and they explained to me, how to get to the main road. They asked me where I was from. I said from Washington. They were impressed. One offered me to tell my fortune. Another offered  me a date for tomorrow, but I decided to return to SPB. There were no buses. So encouraged by very popular Russian hitchhiker site  http://www.avp.travel.ru/ I decided to hitchhike  to Pskov. When I reached the main road I was completely soaked. It is OK to be wet when you are moving. It is like being in a wet scuba suit. When you are not moving you start to freeze. No one stopped for me for an hour and I was ready   to go back to the hotel. Suddenly, a small passenger car stopped and took me. It was a Pskovian family from a nearby village. They spoke with an incredibly heavy Pskovian accent, which  has always been the subject of jokes. They made a huge loop to bring me to the highway, very good people. The next car which took me to Pskov was a big truck (Kamaz), which carried logs, a driver had cigarettes, I had  vodka. We had a good time. He told me his interesting story, and I understood the main advantage of hitchhiking: you systematically meet a good people. Bad people do not stop for you!!! I was in Pskov 35 years ago on my honeymoon, or more properly to say honey-weekend. Pskov seemed to me a  sizable town at that time. On a bike it is petty small. Bums on the streets sell porchini mushrooms (belie gribi), $1.50 for a large bunch. I had porchini soup in a local restaurant, which I could smell from a distance. Pskov is the center of mushroom country. My bus tour stopped in Pskov two days ago and we visited Pskov Kremlin, again, in large group with other tour groups around. Riding  bike along river Velikaya in the evening was much more pleasant and romantic experience. Pskov is in a much better shape then other Russian provincial cities.

Alex Mumzhiu
Saint Petersburg Russia
July 3 7 pm

I wrote to you about Russian writer Sergei Davlatov, whose book about Puskin memorial complex I read in Pushkin Hills. I have found that I have a lot in common with him.

Contrary to common opinion he was not a dissident back in the Soviet Union. However he had a capability to  systematically get into the wrong place at the wrong time. An already printed book of his stories was destroyed in Tallinn simply because the government decided to make next round of tightening of strict controls over the press.  I also had this capability to get in the wrong place at the wrong time. The most funny of my misdemeanors was this, as quoted from my KGB file: "Interrupted the movement of foreign oceanic ships on the Azov Sea (being in a canoe)"

Davlatov complained that they did not allow him to travel even to Bulgaria, which was the easiest foreign country to get permission to travel to. I also was not allowed to travel to Bulgaria.

While Davlatov served in the army, he worked as a guard in prison camps for the  most dangerous prisoners. He wrote that he invented for himself the exercise, which he called training in bravery. He walked alone at night through the   area of camp where prisoners were allowed to walk free. This is a pretty good idea. Bravery, as well as any other skill, can be trained. An untrained person, if he gets in a dangerous situation can get panicked, because fear is not a good adviser.

I also did similar things and mainly for the same reason. For example, in 1997 I got lost (on-purpose) in Naples (Italy) in a rented car. I left my map in the hotel, on-purpose too. The goal of this exercise was to maneuver the car through this most crazy Italian  city, surrounded by crazy Italian drivers and eventually to find my way to my hotel, which is what I did. Well I should add that in order to make this exercise more difficult I had couple drinks.

Yesterday I had the inspiration for such an  exercise again. Without a map, I rode my bike well after midnight to the area near and behind the Leningrad sea port. This area used to be dangerous in the past. In the North-West portion of the port, I found a deep tunnel. I did not know where it went. Anyhow,  I rode in it and got to a great place about which most people who live in SPB  do not know.   This place is called Kanonersky Island. This island is located behind the sea channel through which sea ships come to SPB port. The only connection the island has with the rest of the city is trough this deep tunnel  which goes under the sea channel. It should be one of the best kept secret here in SPB. It has the best uninterrupted view of the Gulf of Finland. Gigantic oceanic ships move slowly ind almost soundlessly through the channel. Amazing place. I would advice these of my readers who live in SPB to visit this island.

Alex Mumzhiu
Sankt Petersburg Russia
July 10 2003 1:30am

This endless rain make me to change my plans again. In an hour my friend Vladia D. and I will go by train to Barnaul (Russian Altay). We will go down along Chuiskii tract to Mongolian border, cross to Mongolia and visit Mongolian Altay, Than my friend will be back and I will continue to China

Alex Mumzhiu
Moskow Russia
Kazanskii Vokzal
July 18 2003 7pm

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